DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A partylist lawmaker said the latest mishap of troops who died in a friendly fire in Marawi City on Wednesday noon is proof that government’s air strike operations could also be killing civilians.
“If the military cannot precisely map out its ground forces during airstrikes, how can we be sure that AFP’s nonstop aerial bombardment is targeting supposed terrorist hideouts? This fuels our fear that not just a few but hundreds of civilians are without doubt being killed by the military operations in Marawi,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus in an emailed statement.
She said the latest failed airstrike “exposes the folly of the AFP’s surgical airstrikes and the destruction-driven operations of the military in Marawi City that has placed civilians in great danger since Day 1 of the martial law.”
Two government troops were killed while 11 were wounded in Marawi City after a bomb went 250 meters off its target during an airstrike by an FA-50 fighter jet around 12 noon yesterday. This brings the government troops killed in action to 92.
In an interview with CNN, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. General Restituto Padilla said during the airstrike “the first bomb that fell, fell 250 plus meters short of the target.”
He said the bomb fell in an area where government troops are located. “That building where our government troops are hiding absorbed the shock of the bomb that exploded and caused a lot of debris to fall. The debris caused the death of two soldiers and the wounding of 11 others,” he said.
Padilla said those injured “were all ambulatory and walking” and are now on their way to recovery.
Joint Task Force Marawi Spokesperson Lt. Col. Joar Herrera said an investigation is being conducted to determine the circumstances following the incident.
“Cognizant units from the AFP have formed a group that is now conducting initial investigations to determine the cause of the mishap and prevent the chances of it (recurring),” Herrera added.
This is the second incident where soldiers were killed in a friendly fire. On May 31, 10 soldiers were also killed while seven were wounded by a military airstrike.
De Jesus said the incident should “let President Rodrigo Duterte see the madness by the US lapdogs in the AFP in prolonging the devastation of Marawi.”
“AFP is killing its own in kowtowing to the US counter terror agenda. (Duterte) should lift the martial law declaration and order an end to the airstrikes,” she said.
Fearing a spill over to nearby cities, President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 following the siege by ISIS-linked extremists in Marawi City. The declaration only lasts for 60 days.
Duterte has previously set schedules on ending the crisis in Marawi but the deadlines were moved until there was no more set timeline as military officials admitted facing difficulty in fighting an urban warfare with the militants.
During his visit to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday, the president said he believes the fighting in Marawi could go for about “10 to 15 days” more which is beyond his State of the Nation Address.
Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa announced Thursday that they will recommend the extension of Martial Law to the President.
Padilla said they are working on the number of days set by the President.
“First we have to work on forwarding the recommendation on whether to extend or lift the martial law and the process of reassessment and recommendation, and the paper is already in the works,” Padilla said adding that the paper is currently with the AFP.
“We are still completing it,” he said. Padilla said they based the assessment on the “original parameters” given to them when martial law was declared.
“Martial Law, when it was imposed, provided a set of conditions that we should meet at the end of Martial Law. Whether those conditions were met, whether those objectives were achieved is something that will be part of the assessment,” he added.
Among the conditions is to quell the rebellion, degrade the capability of the enemy in launching another attack and destroy its network.
He said there remains two general areas where they focus where the enemy’s command and control are located.
As of July 12, Padilla said there are about at least 300 residents who remain unaccounted according to the local government unit. He said this number may be part of the hostages. The government said there are 392 militants killed. (davaotoday.com)